Snow cone

Like a lot of us, I have to push myself to go out and use the camera during the winter. It's not just the temperatures in western Quebec (although it can get pretty cold), it's also the shorter days and weekends that are often filled with other things. Still, I made the effort yesterday so I could put my new Fujifilm XE-1 through its paces outdoors.

I was really intrigued when Fuji brought out the X-Pro 1 because it offered high-quality images in a compact package. And, frankly, I thought it looked beautiful. It also offered something that I hadn't seen in years: real dials that offered direct control of key settings such as aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation. Although it may just be an indication of my age, it looked like a camera should. The only downside for me was the price.

And then along came the XE-1. Slightly smaller, no optical viewfinder and... hundreds of dollars less, even with the 18-55mm f/2.4-4.0 zoom sold as a kit lens. And no less beautiful! I was willing to work with the electronic-only viewfinder if I could get my hands on the same image quality for substantially less money.

And why was all this important to me? Well, although I loved my Nikon D7000 and have shot with film and digital Nikons for close to 30 years, I wanted something lighter and more compact without having to sacrifice any image quality. I take a lot of pictures while travelling, so space and weight of equipment count for a lot, especially if I'm out all day for several days in a row.

The XE-1 seems to fit that bill and I can't get over how light it is: just 350g with battery and memory card versus the D7000's 690g for the body only. It doesn't sound like much, but halving the bulk is important when it's hanging around a sweaty neck all day. And the lenses are much lighter, too -- it all adds up.

The accompanying image was shot hand-held on a mild-ish winter day (somewhere between -10C and -15C) with the lens wide open. Needless to say, I am very pleased with kit that can produce such fine JPEGs straight out of the camera. And my neck is happier too, even though less sweaty at this time of year.

More on the XE-1 in the days and weeks to come. Time to sell the Nikon gear?